One of the greatest satisfactions for any polytunnel gardener is being able to feed family and friends with the healthy, fresh produce that you have grown. A polytunnel will introduce you to the joys of eating seasonally and will allow you to grow some crops all year round. Winter is often thought of as a time of scarcity, but Christmas should be a time of bounty and is a time when we love to indulge – sometimes to excess! Christmas can be a time to show friends and family how well your growing efforts have gone throughout the year – harvesting Christmas dinner from a polytunnel can be a fantastic way to do just that.
Brussels sprouts are one of the traditional Christmas foods and, love them or loath them, many people believe that Christmas dinner would not be the same without them. Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest when the little green heads are firm balls of around 1-2 inches in diameter. Remove the sprouts from the plants by twisting them until they break off, beginning to harvest the sprouts from the bottom of the plants and working your way upwards. If your sprouts are ready a little too early for Christmas, you can blanch them and freeze them right away and keep them on ice until the big day.
Other green options for your Christmas dinner include winter cabbages and kale. All of these brassicas can provide plenty of food over the winter months and their varied appearance means that they can look good together on your festive table. Headed cabbages can be cut as required, while leaves of kale can be removed from plants as and when they are needed.
Parsnips will be mature around 16 weeks after planting but can be left in the ground until they are needed, as long as the ground does not freeze solid. It is unlikely to do so in a polytunnel and any light freezes experienced will only enhance the flavour and make your parsnips sweeter. Gently fork up your parsnips rather than pulling to make sure you do not break them off under ground. Roasted, with a little honey, parsnips are another delicious Christmas dinner favourite.
You may have your potatoes in store for the winter, or you may have planted some Christmas potatoes to have new potatoes for your festive table. Either way, this staple tastes so much better when you have grown your own. If you are harvesting Christmas potatoes for the big day, check by gently feeling under the ground a week or so before you need them, to check that everything is going well and to make sure you definitely have the crop you were expecting.